Olympics: Mark Todd misses out on shot at gold

By Michael Brown

Mark Todd knocks a rail off during his Show Jumping in the Equestrian Eventing. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Mark Todd knocks a rail off during his Show Jumping in the Equestrian Eventing. Photo / Brett Phibbs

New Zealand are now proudly sitting on the medal table, something plenty of nations are yet to achieve, and it was appropriate it took a couple of seven-time Olympians to help do it.

New Zealand won bronze in the team's event at Greenwich Park this morning (NZT), meaning Mark Todd has now joined canoeists Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald as this country's most decorated Olympian.

He has five Olympic medals and, incredibly, his latest comes 28 years after his first when he famously won the first of his consecutive gold medals. In many ways, however, despite the bronze not being as bright and shiny as his first two, this is an even more significant achievement.

At 56, Todd was the oldest rider in the competition and he also retired from the sport for eight years before realising the competitive flame still flickered away in him.

It's not inconceivable it will still be burning in four years' time to allow him to chase a record sixth Olympic medal in Rio.

There is a tinge of disappointment in Todd, however, that he didn't grab another this morning.

He went into today's show jumping phase third in the individual competition but his young horse, Campino, clearly struggled to back up after yesterday's cross country and Todd dropped to 12th overall.

He was overtaken by Andrew Nicholson, also competing in his seventh Games, who finished fourth. Jonathan Paget was 10th, Caroline Powell 29th and Jonelle Richards 32nd.

"I can allow myself to be disappointed I guess that I didn't win an individual medal but I have to be pleased with what I have got," Todd said. "A team medal to me is almost as important and my horse performed out of his skin.

"To be competitive after the first two phases was incredible. I'm not surprised he was really tired today. It's disappointing for him as much as anything that he couldn't show what a good jumper he is.

"But it's been a brilliant week. We would have obviously loved to come home with a gold but delighted to get the bronze."

New Zealand started the day in fourth overall but less than a rail behind both Sweden and Great Britain. With the top three riders from each country counting towards the team standards, Paget, Nicholson and Todd needed to be clinical.

Nicholson looked effortless in his first round - only the first round of show jumping counted to the team's event - but both Paget and Todd picked up penalties.

Fortunately Sweden incurred more to hand New Zealand the bronze. Germany won gold and Great Britain silver.

Todd proudly displayed his "hardware, as he described it, after the medal ceremony and headed down to the local pub just outside the gates at Greenwich Park for a few celebratory drinks.

He didn't ever really know if he would experience that when he made his competitive comeback just in time to compete in Beijing in 2008.

"You can always hope, can't you," he said. "Until you do it, you never really know. It's hard to believe at this stage I am back here after 28 years with another medal but we have a brilliant team around us. It's been one of the best teams I have ever been with and I have been with a few. To win this bronze medal has been just incredible."

His other ones are in a safe place at home but, before the latest one joins them, he might use it to make a point.

In the lead-up to competition, Todd was often stopped by security telling he couldn't go certain places or get on particular buses because they were for Olympic athletes only.

"Maybe if I wore this around my neck, it might answer a few questions," he said. "I could hit them over the head with it."

He's done that, metaphorically speaking, with his performance over the last four days.

- APNZ

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